THE GREAT GOD PAN
By Anthony Roe
Published at Beltane 1999
As a schoolboy looking through the pages of Picture Post, I remember being curious about the reproductions of paintings from the walls of Aleister Crowley's Abbey in Sicily, uncovered by the underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger, who produced the Crowley inspired Pleasure Dome.
There was one picture taken in the Chamber of Nightmares, with the sexologist Kinsey strategically posed in the foreground. The picture of a goat was evident. In my youth I did not recognise Pan, the son of Hermes, the Arcadian god of lust and magic who seduces men and women with his pipes and wantonness, the symbol of the libido in its sexual aspect, vagrant male sexuality, the personification of undisciplined procreation in nature, But the image remained with me, and I subsequently learnt that the herdsmen of ancient Greece adored Pan, and discovered the magick in connection with him.
Looking at such gods of the simpler Greek communities, we find them often vague in their nature and sometimes limited in their functions to a far greater degree than the better-known deities. It is noteworthy that some at least of Pan's worshippers were none too certain whether he was one or many; at all events, Aristophanes and Plato, to say nothing of later authors, have heard of the plural, Panes. But this is exactly what, under the circumstances, we should expect, and indeed find in several like cases. It is probable on the whole that his name means the Feeder or Pasturer. We can easily imagine that in Arcadia, where he was originally worshipped, many little groups of herdsmen devoutly adored each its divine Pasture, perhaps represented by some stick or stone set up in a holy place, and quite possibly each group was ready to proclaim the superiority of its own Pan to everyone else's. This might well be so, whether the god had originally been conceived as a single being or a plurality, for local cults tend to break up in this way. Nothing can be more certain than that the Virgin Mary is one person in every kind of Christian theology, and no cult is more widespread in modern Greece than hers; but I have heard of a Chian peasant who proclaimed in emphatic and not over-delicate language that the Panaghia (the All-Holy One, her popular name ) of his village church could out do all other Panaghies whomsoever.
The same divine Pasturer was never a very exalted figure, nor always treated with profound respect, or what we should regard as such, even by those who worshipped him in all sincerity. His business (a god has his duties; even Zeus is commended for 'doing well' when he sends seasonable rain) was to keep his herdsmen-worshippers well supplied with meat. The obvious way to do this was to make their flocks and herds increase abundantly, and theirs were mostly small cattle, sheep and goats, especially, it would seem, the latter. Now the obvious increaser of a herd of goats is the he-goat, and a divine he-goat is essentially what Pan was supposed to be. When represented by an image at all, he regularly had goat's legs and a shaggy beard, and his few legends make him out to be as lustful as his prototype.
His power was not unfailing, and, like that of not a few gods of sundry religions, might need stimulation and renewal at times. We know how this was done; if the meat supplies, whether got from the flock or by hunting, were scanty, the boys used to beat Pan tie his statue: or whatever object represented him) with squills (a liliaceous plant, scilla maritima, resembling the bluebell), a plant supposed to have the virtue of driving away evils. Thus they at once roused the god to further efforts and rid him, to the best of their ability, of whatever unlucky influence had hindered his activities. Later mythologers prepared a parentage for the Pasturer. Reckoned amongst the sons of Hermes was this great phallic god of the inhabitants of the Peloponnese, especially of Arcadia - a goat-horned, goat-legged god named Pan. In a story concerning Hermes set in Arcadia, Hermes pastured sheep for a mortal master, Dryops, 'oak' - the first Green Man - and whilst doing so fell in love with a local nymph. Hermetic desire found fulfilment, and a magic child was born, with goat's feet and goat's horns, crying and laughing.
When his mother had borne him, she sprang up and fled, leaving none to suckle the child, so terrified was she saw its wild and bearded face. Hermes picked up his son, wrapped him in a hare's pelt, and hastily brought him to Olympus. He sat down beside Zeus and the other gods, and introduced his son to them. The immortals were delighted with the child - Dionysus most of all. They named him Pan because 'all' had been pleased with him.
In Greek 'pan' means 'all', and the god was later identified with the physical Universe - although his name, except for its sound, has nothing to do with this. The story just told suggests that Pan was one of the youngest generation of gods. But each generation of gods must have had its own Pan, seeing that there was already a Pan in Zeus's cave, who helped Zeus against the Titans, or against Typhon, and seeing also, that a Pan was - together with Arcas - a son of Zeus and Callisto. The great poet and mythologian Aeschylus distinguished between two Pans; a son of Zeus, a twin brother of Areas; and a son of Kronos. The distinction between various Pans was also expressed in composite names such as Titanopan, Diopan, Hermopan - referring in each case to his father - or Aigipan, which was used by those who did not wish to assign any particular parentage to the god.
In the retinue of Dionysus, or in depictions of wild landscapes, there appeared not only a great Pan, but also little Pans, Paniskoi, who played the same part as the Satyrs. This resemblance to the Satyrs, of whom there must at first have been more than one, led to a dispersion and multiplication of the god Pan, who perhaps, when he originally came into being, had only a single twin brother and represented the darker half of a divine male couple. Pan belongs to that twilight world of satyrs, fauns, centaurs and sileni, who according to venerable tradition once thronged the globe, and whose descendants may still be glimpsed by the sensitive. (Crowley once confessed to having seen a faun peering at him from behind a tree at Fontainbleau.) These earlier stages of human evolution, the androgynous and semi-animal states, are yet recapitulated in the womb.
The characteristics that were ascribed to Pan in numerous lesser tales are well known: dark, terror-awakening, phallic, but not always malignant. He could, of course, sometimes be malignant, especially at noon, if he were awakened from his sleep. At night he led the dance of the nymphs, and he also ushered in the morning and kept watch from the mountain summits. Many love-stories were told of him, in which he pursued nymphs. These chases often had dramatic results. Syrinx turned herself into a reed-pipe, from which Pan fashioned the syrinx, a herdsman's flute with a row of holes; Echo, chased by Pan, became a mere voice, mere refracted sound. But Pan's greatest passion was for Selene. Of this affair it was told that the moon-goddess refused to company with the dark god. Whereupon Pan, to please her, dressed himself in white ram-skins, and thus seduced Selene. He even carried her on his back. It is however uncertain whether even in the earliest time it was necessary for him thus to change his shape in order to play the role of successful lover with a goddess who repeatedly lets herself be embraced by darkness. But the myth has traceable links with the ancient devotions of Egypt. Of all the Egyptians who were skilled in working magic. Nectanebo, the last native king of Egypt, about BCE 358, was the chief, if we may believe Greek tradition. When he saw that the end of the kingdom of Egypt was at hand, he shaved off his hair and his beard, disguised himself by putting on common apparel, took ship and fled to Pella in Macedonia, where he established himself as a physician and as an Egyptian soothsayer.
The historian Pseudo-Callisthenes tells us that there Nectanebus cast the nativity of the queen, Olympias, and sent a dream to the queen by means of a wax image. His object was to persuade the queen that the Egyptian god Amun (worshipped at Luxor in ithyphallic form in the guise or the fertility god Min) would come to her at night. Nectanebus also sent a dream to King Philip of Macedon, by means of a hawk that he had bewitched with magical words, and the king was satisfied that the child to whom his wife was about to give birth was the son of the god Amun (or Ammon) of Libya, who was regarded as the father of all the kings who ascended the throne of Egypt who did not belong to the royal stock of that country. The child was Alexander the Great.
When he conquered Egypt Alexander straightway resorted to the oasis of Siwa, to visit the shrine of Jupiter-Ammon. There he embraced the god and clothed himself in the skin of the sacred ram in which the god was incarnate. Medallions of the king ever after showed him crowned with the ram's horns of kingship and divinity. Thus Greece succumbed to the wiles of Egypt, but hellenic ways were even so impressed upon the land of the Nile, and the goat would lie with the ram.
In an Orphic fragment preserved by Marobius, the names of Jupiter and Pan appear to be titles of the all-creating power of the sun, and Pan, the universal substance is called Kerastes, the horned Jupiter. According to Plutarch, the Jupiter-Ammon of the Africans was the same as the Pan of the Greeks. This explains the reasons why the Macedonian kings assumed the horns of that god; for, though Alexander pretended to be his son, his successors never pretended to any such honour; and yet they equally assumed the symbols, as appears from their medals. The case is, that Pan, or Ammon, being the universe, and Jupiter a title of the Supreme God, the horns, the emblems of his power, seemed the most proper symbols of that supreme and universal dominion to which they all, as well as Alexander, had the ambition to aspire.
Now Nectanebo had been a pharaoh in the XXXth dynasty, and had fought the battle of Mendes, a town in the Delta, Lower Egypt, now called Ashmoun, with Ataxerxes II, his suzerain, king of Persia, whom he had utterly defeated, and together with his army expelled from the Delta, Nectanebo forever after remained faithful to the local god. The town was sacred to the worship of the god Min and the ram Mendes. This devotion Nectanebo took with him when he fled to Greece. His god was identified with Pan. (The Greeks called Min's city in the IXth nome of Upper Egypt Panopolis, today called Akhmim.) When the Ptolomies ruled Egypt after Alexander, Min was accepted as the Egyptian Pan, and the worship of the goat was conflated with that of the ram. This gave rise to the cult of the Goat of Mendes, infamous in the West as the incarnation of the Devil, the age-old arch rival to the slave masters of Christendom.
In dynastic times, the soul of Osiris was thought to be lodged in the sacred ram that was worshipped in the Western Delta town of Djedet, and was known as Ba-neb-Djedet (Ram-lord-of-Djedet), who remained a popular deity down to the Ptolomaic period. The Greeks garbled the last three syllables of Ba-neb-Djedet’s name into Mendes, and two Greeks in particular, the geographer Strabo and the poet Pindar, not to mention the Roman historian Diodorus of Sicily, made the Ram of Mendes famous. Pindar insisted that this Ram was permitted to have intercourse with women, a practice attested by Herodotus.
A tapestry fragment from Egypt of the fourth century CE, now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, shows Dionysus accompanied by Pan, who here carries the pedum (sheperd's crook) and a faun-skin. In the background are pan-pipes. Both wear the haloes of divinity. Such 'post-classical' works bear witness to the cult of Pan all around the Meditteranean well into the Christian era. Whether this persisting iconography was supported by a continuation of the Mysteries is another question. They were probably limited to the great centres of urban civilization where his cult flourished most strongly, such as Alexandria, Athens, Pergamurn and Ephesus. The silver 'Oceanus Dish' from the Mildenhall Treasure, around 350-375ce, now in the British Museum, shows four lithe maenads dancing with Pan and his satyrs.
It was Margaret Murray who said that the gods of the old religion become the devils of the new. Jesus ended his life on earth in the southern part of Judea in Jerusalem. The death of Christ heralded the birth of a new religion which would bear his name. As this new religion grew and spread, all, or almost all, it came into contact with became its enemy. The common people, content in their style of worship were suddenly heathens, sinners and enemies of the one true God. The pair of opposites was now Paganism and Christianity. As Christ represents Christianity, Pan represents Paganism. Pan was soon to become the Christian Devil, Satan incarnate. But before this Christian conception took hold, Pan was a god.
What was there about this frolicking god of the glen that made him so odious to the new Christians? Wherein was he Satanic? Perhaps in his sexual exploits. He is known to have seduced several nymphs. He also boasted that he had coupled with all Dionysus' drunken maenads.The episode related above wherein Pan seduces the Moon points to the Christian belief that Satan is able to disguise himself and seduce chaste women. The similarity between the Church Father Origen's description of Satan and the features of Pan is very obvious.
Pan represented freedom of spirit, natural instincts, sinless love. In some parts of the world, prior to the advent of Christianity, women were free, untrammeled by rigid rules of moral conduct, and therefore, when the new religion made its debut, women were called sinful. "The Christians found the women of Europe free and sovereign," says Elizabeth Davis in "The First Sex" (p 229). "The right to divorce, to abortion, to birth control, to property ownership, to the bearing of titles and the inheritance of estates, to the making of wills, to bringing suits at law, all these and many other rights were attrited away by the Church through the Christian centuries." We must remember that the leaders of the early church were Jews, bred in the Hebraic tradition that women were of no account and existed solely to serve men. Orthodox Judaism of the time, like Saint Augustine of Hippo, taught that women had no souls.
Now we draw closer to the reason Pan might have been viewed as Satan, why the figure of Satan as handed down to us consists of goat's feet, horns and black hair. (The statue of the god Min, the Egyptian Pan, was daubed black.) Pan came to represent the freedom of spirit and love of Nature which could be viewed only as works of the Devil. Pan and women were allies, friends, lovers. All were guiltless, without shame. As some scholars have it, guilt is the cornerstone of the early Christian faith. Woman was guilty by virtue of being woman. Saint Clement announced that "Every woman should be overwhelmed with shame at the very thought that she is woman." Here we have it in a nutshell: pagans had no guilt, no shame, no sense of sin. Thus Pan became the paragon of guilt, the embodiment of sin, and the patron of that horrendous human weakness - sex. Obviously, like gods and goddesses, and rites and ceremonies before him, Pan had to be either syncretized, suppressed or subordinated. True to form, the Christian Fathers incorporated Pan into their pantheon - as Satan. Pan could not be annihilated for too many people loved, adored and worshipped him. He could not be extirpated from the hearts and minds of men and women. So he was simply 'evilized'. This Christian act was felt everywhere; the repercussions were wide ranging. The Christian God was said to have killed Pan.
News of Pan's death came to a man named Thamus, a pilot of a ship bound for Italy by way of Paxi. As Thamus was sailing along in the Aegean on a quiet evening, he heard a loud voice announcing that "Great Pan is dead". This announced the end of Paganism; Pan with his pipes, the god of the natural, had yielded to the God of the supernatural. The story is told by a character in Plutarch's dialogue "On why oracles came to fail". When the boat Thamus was piloting came opposite Palodes, and there was neither wind nor wave, from the stern, looking toward the land, he said the words as he heard them: "Great Pan is dead". Even before he had finished there was a great cry of lamentation, not of one person but of many, mingled with exclamations of amazement. As many persons were on the vessel, the story was soon spread abroad in Rome, and Thamus was sent for by Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius became so convinced of the truth of the story that he caused an inquiry and investigation to be made about Pan, and the scholars, who were numerous at this court, conjectured that he was the son born of Hermes and Penelope, based on the mystical conclusion that the numerological value of the name Pan equates to 131, the number of lovers reputedly entertained by Penelope.
The lifetime of Plutarch (CE 45-125), who took the myth seriously, coincides with the time in which almost all the books of the New Testament were written. Speculation about the death of Pan continued in the Renaissance and afterward. Rabelais thought that Pan was Christ, for 'pan' means 'all', and Christ is mankind's all. Fontenelle, in his "Histoire critique des oracles", considered the possibility that Jesus and Great Pan might be daemons of approximately the same rank, and that the death of one would affect the other. Even if the story of Great Pan has no foundation whatsoever, it seems to sum up the mood of an entire era and its historical truth is that of a myth, albeit a late myth. To many early Christians this was the beginning of the end of paganism, and by the late Middle Ages the ancient god of the Greeks was identified with the devil. Pan did not really die. If anything, this was wishful thinking on the part of early Christians. But that they truly believed Pan to be dead cannot be denied. It was with hope and expectation of better things that they proclaimed: "Great Pan is dead". To them it prophesied the end of the world. The alleged death of Pan was not simply a matter of the end of ancient worship, the overthrow of the preceding faith, the eclipse of time-honoured religious forms, but the express hope that Nature is to disappear and life die out: the Gospel says "The day is at hand"; the Church Fathers say "Soon, very soon". The disintegration of the Roman Empire and the inroads of the barbarian invaders raised such hopes in St Augustine's breast, that soon there would be no city left but his City of God.
Yet how long a-dying the world is; how obstinately determined to live on. The old gods enshrined in the heart of nature, in the trees and streams, between the rocks and in the breeze, live on to confound the Church and cannot be driven out. Who says so? The Church herself - contradicting herself flatly. She first proclaimed them dead, then waxes indignant because they are still alive. Unable to kill them, the Church suffers the innocent-hearted to dress them up and disguise their true nature.
The nature and attributes of the god Pan, after 'diabolization', were added to the looming black figure of Satan. Century after century, by the threatening voices of Church councils, Pan was ordered to die, but he is as alive as ever. There are those who accept the definitions of the Church at face value, and in their stance against Christianity invoke devils and worship Satan. On the other hand there is that body of worshippers who call themselves witches, the worshippers of the Old Religion, the admirers of Pan. They still dance to the strains of his pipes.
In continental Europe, as well as in Britain, some worshippers of the ancient Celtic and Graeco-Roman gods had refused to convert to Christianity, and the rites they performed were interpreted as magical rites. The Celts worshipped a horned male god that may have reminded the Romans of the god Pan; a minor god to be sure, but one who could drive you into a 'panic' terror when you encountered him at noontime. This combination of horned gods, one Celtic, one classical, produced a very powerful deity around which the pagani rallied.
Up to the time of the Norman Conquest, records show that the people were openly pagan while their rulers may have been nominally Christian. A legal enactment could Christianize vast numbers of people even if they continued to practise the Old Religion. The enactment symbolized the Death of Pan, but the populace testified to his life. In his short history of Christianity, the author Marty tells us that it is possible that the Church's prohibition against representing the Crucifixion as a lamb on a cross was due to the desire to differentiate the Christian from the heathen god. The lamb, being a horned animal, was liable to be confused with the horned deity of the pagans.
The Old Religion, the worship of the Horned God, was apparently a worthy opponent for Christianity. It is said that if the word 'God' were substituted for the word 'Devil' in all Christian-written material on Paganism one would have a fairly accurate account of the prevalence and intensity of Pagan worship. Christians stigmatized the worshippers as witches, called their god Satan, and turned their groves into churches. In the process they made Satan's presence felt more, and increased his stature as well as the number of his so-called devotes. Witchcraft emerged as a black practice dangerous to followers of God.
It is in witchcraft that Pan - the symbol of Nature - still lives. His worship has ever lingered in field and fold. The new religion was left to the urban centres. Leland recorded the little prayers to Pan still intoned by devotees of 'la vecchia religione' in Tuscany. The Farrars use the name of Pan in their specimen rituals of "The Witches Way', where he is still equated with Herne and Cernunnos. The dualistic philosophy of early Christian theologians only added to the problem of evil and helped create Satan. Beginning with the Fall of Rome in 476 CE, through the Dark and Middle Ages, the Age of Reason and the Renaissance, we find only the Christian conception of Satan. It is to this Satan, 'history' tells us, that men and women sold their souls. Any references made by early theologians to ancient history after the rise of Christianity were used to l'einforce this new Satan and to fortify belief in him. So effective was this inspired campaign that the social and religious rebels of today really believe they worship Satan, and traditionalists and religionists really believe Satan is the god of these non-Christians. Such fraternities and sororities have taken the inverted pentangle as their common sigil for His Satanic Majesty as being a vestigial representation or the goat physiognomy.
Thus, with complete credulity and perhaps justification, Pope Paul VI could say "So we know that this dark and disturbing Spirit really exists, and that he still acts with treacherous cunning." This pronouncement was made in 1973. This year the Pope re-affirmed the traditional view of the Evil One. Thus the long and successful career of Satan, and hence the belief on the part of some sick souls that Satan can indwell, command, direct, use and destroy human life.
One of the first pagan sites to be re-consecrated at Rome was a temple on the Tiber island, the round Temple of Faunus, the Roman Pan, which Pope Simplicius (468-53 CE) named St Stephano Rotondo. Goats had been sacrificed there. The ancient myths were long remembered, even among those Christians with esoteric knowledge of the ancient mysteries. The grand master of Byzantine painting, who worked between 1300 and 1320 CE on the decoration of the Protaton church on Mount Athos, bore the name Panselinos, attesting knowledge of the ancient myth of Pan and the Moon Goddess. As in numberless instances in pagan art the pan-pipe is the regular accompaniment of the shepherd, so the Good Shepherd is, in Christian art, often represented with a pipe of seven reeds or straws, the classic syrinx of Pan. This primitive musical instrument with which shepherds were supposed to call back their flocks to the fold, like other pastoral emblems, soon began to be used in an allegorical sense by the early Fathers. Thus Gregory Nazianzen, after describing the anxiety of a shepherd, who, mounted on an eminence, fills the air with the melancholy strains of his pipe, recommends the spiritual pastor to follow his example and try to win souls to God by persuasion rather than the staff. The syrinx, or Pandaean pipes, was regarded as typifying the music of the Gospel, which recalls the wanderers and guides the sheep in the right way.
The Neoplatonist and Christian philosophers made Pan the synthesis of paganism. When he had lost his uncontrollable sexuality, he came to personify the grand totality of a state of being. Plutarch recorded the legend of sailors on the high seas hearing mysterious voices proclaiming the demise of Pan. No doubt the voices mourning among the waves did fortell the death of the old gods, epitomized in Pan, in the sense of the birth of a new age and one which made the Graeco-Roman world shiver with fear. The end of an era was portended. But memories of Pan remained in our sub-consciousness, sublimated but intact. Old Pan, the shepherds' god, had half human, half animal shape; bearded, horned and hairy, lively, agile, swift and crafty, he expressed animal cunning. He preyed sexually upon nymphs and boys indifferently, but his appetite was insatiable and he also indulged in solitary pleasures. Sculptures retrieved from Herculaneum reveal his bestial pursuits. The gods gave him the name Pan, meaning 'All Things', not only because all things are to some extent like him in their greed, but also because he is a universal tendency incarnate. He is the god of All Things, doubtless indicative of the procreative current charging All Things, all Gods, or all Life.
Payne Knight says that the Lycaean Pan of Arcadia is Pan the Luminous; that is, the divine essence of light incorporated in universal matter. The Arcadians called him 'the Lord of Matter', as Macrobius rightly translates it. The ancient writer Damascius tells us that the Orphic deity Phanes-Jupiter was also called Pan, the 'mingler of all things'. A late second century CE relief in Modena Museum shows this cosmic deity surrounded by a zodiacal mandala; a type of that which surrounds the Cosmic Christ in Majesty in medieval paintings. Pan is addressed in the Orphic Litanies as 'the first-begotten love', or creator incorporated in universal matter, and so forming the world. He is described as the origin and source of all things, as representing matter animated by the divine spirit. Lycaean Pan was the most ancient and revered God of the Arcadians, the most ancient people of Greece.
The modern occultist Kenneth Grant compares the Greek Pan, 'All', with the Latin 'Omne', the Sanskrit 'Aum', Egyptian 'Amoun' and Hebrew 'Amen', all designations of the Hidden God of the forest, the Abyss, the deep, the underworld; any region withdrawn and without the range of waking consciousness. Anciently Pan gave his name to the word 'panic', the terror which fills all nature and all beinigs when the feeling that this god is there disturbs the spirit and bewilders the senses.
The Arcadian god Pan is the best known Classical example of the dangerous presence dwelling just beyond the protected zone of the community boundary, 'beyond the pale'; Sylvanus and Faunus were his Latin counterparts. (In Alexandrian times Pan was identified with the ithyphallic Egyptian divinity Min, who was, among other things, the guardian of desert roads.) The emotion that he instilled in human beings who by accident adventured into his domain was 'panic' fear, a sudden groundless fright. Any trifling cause then - the break of a twig, the flutter of a leaf - would flood the mind with imagined danger, and in the frantic effort to escape from his, own aroused unconscious the victim expired in a flight of dread. His worship spread from Arcadia to Athens immediately after the Athenian and Plataean victory over the Persians at Marathon in 480 BCE, because he made the Persians flee in panic.
Yet Pan was benign to those who paid him worship, yielding the boons of the divine economy of nature, bounty to the farmers, herders, and fisher-folk who dedicated their first fruits to him, and health to all who properly approached his shrines of healing. Also wisdom, the wisdom of Omphalos, the World Navel, was his to bestow; for the crossing of the threshold is the first step into the sacred zone of the universal source.
At Lycaion was an oracle, presided over by the nymph Erato, whom Pan inspired, as Apollo did the prophetess at Delphi. And Plutarch numbers the ecstasies of the orgiastic rites of Pan along with the ecstasy of Cybele, the Bacchic frenzy of Dionysus (the great Thracian counterpart of Pan), the poetic frenzy inspired by the Muses, the warrior frenzy of the god Ares-Mars, and, fiercest of all, the frenzy of love, as illustrations of the divine 'enthusiasm' that overturns the reason and releases the forces of the destructive-creative dark.
The condition as panolepsy was suffered by ancient Greeks from Athenian teenagers to mighty Socrates himself, whereby a person in the woods would be overcome by intense elation. This was considered possession by Pan. Some would run away into the woods and never return. Pan, as god of the hellenic witches, furnishes the traditional image of the Devil; hence he must have played an important role in magical ceremonies in later antiquity although the texts do not give a coherent picture of this development.
In his book on the Tarot, Frank Lind says of The Black Magician card that the central figure of the card is that of Pan, the god of Nature, the cause of man's instinctive behaviour. In some Tarot sets the Devil is represented with the extremities of a goat - the he-goat being a prototype of Satan. The appearance of Satan as a goat was usual at the witches' Sabbat. This Goat of Mendes, a combination of faun, satyr, and Pan-goat, became in medieval times a definite synthesis of the anti-divinity. At Mendes, the city of ancient Egypt, Pan under this form was worshipped with the greatest solemnity.
Liber Oz tells us that "there is no god but man". Grant comments that the underlying doctrine is obvious. When a man, growing in consciousness by repeated acts of love under will, expands his consciousness to embrace all other consciousness, he becomes Pan, ie One with All. There is thus no essential difference between any one universe and any other. Once consciousness has become cosmic in scope the many selves vanish and the One Self alone remains. The process is detailed in the Divine Pymander of the Thrice-Greatest Hermes, the father of Pan: "After this manner, therefore, contemplate God, as having within himself the entire Cosmos - all thoughts or intellections. If thou dost not make thyself God-like, thou canst not know God; for like is intelligible only to like. Expand thyself unto the immeasurable greatest, passing beyond all body, and transcending time, enter Eternity, thus thou shalt know God. Conceive that nothing is impossible unto thee; think thyself immortal and able to know all - all sciences, all arts, the nature and way of life of every creature. Become higher than all height, lower than all depth; comprehend in thyself the qualities of all creatures, of fire and water, the dry and moist; and likewise conceive thyself to be in every place - in earth, in sea, in heaven, in the unbegotten, in the womb, in the young, in the old, in the dead, and in the after-death state. And if thou canst know all these things simultaneously - all times, places, deeds, qualities, and quantities - thou canst then know God."
A well-documented invocation of Pan by Aleister Crowley occasioned The Paris Working, a series of operations carried out by him with Victor Neuberg, a poet who had published a slim collection entitled "The Triumph of Pan". They trod violets with their bare feet to evoke the spirit of the glade through which trots the lustful Pan. (Traditionally Pan held a branch of pine, or was crowned with pine leaves.) The deity closest to Crowley's heart, he was given the appropriate colour of crimson, the colour of Geburah (Strength), the fifth sephira of the Tree of Life in the Cabala, attributed to Mars. Geburah is also called Pachad (Terror), which suggests the God Pan (opines Grant) and the peculiar nature or the strength and terror associated with the god.
The manifestation of the God Pan occurs at high noon. In Crowleyanity this is the Secret Silver Star shining at noon in the depths of the earth. When Crowley was enthroned in Berlin as Baphomet, the title he assumed when he joined the OTO, he copied as his seal the Alexandrian gem displaying the conjoined ram and goat of Mendes-Pan, that he had garnered from the "Two Essays on the Worship of Priapus" by Richard Payne Knight. This was appropriate as Baphomet, like Pan, enjoined men to lust and enjoy all things of the senses. The figure of Ammon was compounded of the forms of the ram, as that of Pan was of the goat; the reason of this is difficult to ascertain, unless we suppose that goats were unknown in the country where his worship arose, and that the ram expressed the same attribute.
Pausanias says he knew the meaning of this symbol, but did not choose to reveal it, it being part of the mystic worship. Crowley's seal design was based on an actual gem in the collection of Charles Townley, on which the head of the Greek Pan is joined to that of the ram of Ammon.
Orpheus and Hesiod composed hymns to Pan. Whilst in Moscow, Crowley wrote his own Hymn to Pan, his most effective poem, according to his biographer. Symonds says that as an evocation it achieves its aim, and was used during many a magickal operation. After two thousand years of Christianity one is thrown back by its ancient pagan frenzy; it is the dance of Pan and the dissolution of consciousness. This is the Dionysian aspect of life rediscovered by Nietzsche. Pan is the Antichrist, symbol of lust and magic. After the poet Louis Wilkinson recited the Hymn at Crowley's funeral in the chapel at Brighton crematorium on 5th December 1947, the local Council declared: "We shall take all necessary steps to prevent such an incident occurring again".
But the spirit of Pan yet walks abroad. In Egypt, away from the pyramids and the tour buses, in the vicinity of skhmim, where the god Min had his ancient cult centre Panopolis, crude phallic figurines are still set up in the fields. This custom is likely to go back to ancient times and the figures may be derived from the ithyphallic image of Min. They are probably used today because their sexuality is thought to stimulate crop growth and because an erect penis (Crowley's 'token erect of thorny thigh') is thought to frighten away the evil spirits who threaten crops.
And in a 'friendly pagan magazine from the East Midlands, a classified contact seeks 'pictures of Pan for a tattoo'.
I can hear the echo of the Old Crow's words:-
"Thrill with lissome lust of the light,
O manl My man!
Come careering out of the night
Of Pan! Io Pan!
Sources and References
Boreard, Philippe - The Cult of Pan in Ancient Greece, University of Chicago Press, 1988.
Grant, Kenneth - Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, Frederick Muller Ltd, 1973.
Laurence, Theodor - Satan, Sorcery and Sex, Parker Publishing Company (NY), 1974.
Payne Knight, Richard - Two Essays on the Worship of Priapus, privately printed, London, 1865.
Rose, H J - Ancient Greek Religion, Hutchinson’s University Library, 1946.